We need more strong, positive black male teachers in our classrooms in our schools in Sampson County, ranging fro kindergarten through 12th grade, with the teaching force in our county and city systems reflecting the diversity that exists in our larger society. The fact is, only two percent of the nation’s yearly five million teachers are black men, with that number continuing to dwindle. It is also a fact that there is ample evidence of the enormous impact and influence an effective black male teacher can have in the classroom.
Just imagine what a different community this would be if we had black male teachers well represented in our schools throughout Sampson County, bringing a sense of hope and encouragement that too many of our students lack today because they don’t feel that connection with the adult at the front of the class. In fact, all students benefit from having an effective black male teacher, someone who can help dispel the stereotypes associated with being a black male. Of course, great schools need good teachers from all backgrounds who can inspire and help guide young people, elevating their aspirations and dreams.
In order for us to make a difference in the lives of all children, we need black teachers, especially black male teachers, to be very involved in “the intellectual care and development of our boys and girls.” To be sure, we’ve come a long way on the educational front, but we must still insist our schools be places where all students feel honored, respected and valued, places where learning and teaching are made relevant and meaningful to all students, and places that find ways to engage every child in learning. Additionally, our schools must be places that welcome, support and value black male teachers.
To my dismay, there are too few outward signs of our critical need for strong, positive black male teachers in our schools across Sampson County. Those in key administrative roles seem content and too complacent with the status quo, being satisfied with hiring the best qualified teacher and leaving it at that. Well, that’s not enough, and as a community we should expect our school leaders to do more to help remedy this situation, realizing “you can’t be what you don’t see.” Little will change until we begin to find workable solutions and implement change.
With the leadership of our school administrators, we must be creative and find ways “to grow” locally our own teachers in collaboration with all our community stakeholders. Our high schools must do more to interest students, especially our black males in the teaching profession, pointing out the impact they can have in changing our society, while making young people more aware of the rewarding intangibles about teaching as a career.
If having local black male teachers really matters, our community collaboration, along with state and federal grants, can send black male students to college, covering tuition and boarding, with the students committing to teach in the county for a certain length of time.
As we introduce black male high schools students to the rewards of being a classroom teacher and create local sources of funds to help black males who aspire to teach, we can start “growing” our own teachers to become that positive influence on the future.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton City Schools.